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Meghalaya mine tragedy: Rescue operation continues; NDRF, navy divers begin efforts at dawn on Sunday

Shillong: Divers from the Navy and the NDRF went inside the flooded Meghalaya mine on Saturday to conduct a recce and measure the level of accumulated water as part of the rescue operation of the 15 trapped miners.

The water level is estimated to be more than 77 to 80 feet in the vertical shaft of the rat-hole coal mine in East Jaintia Hills district, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) Assistant Commandant Santosh Kumar Singh told PTI.

"The Navy divers and I went down inside the mine and preparatory exercises were conducted. I hope that all the rescue agencies will begin the operations at the first ray of light tomorrow," Singh said.

 Meghalaya mine tragedy: Rescue operation continues; NDRF, navy divers begin efforts at dawn on Sunday

Divers use a pulley to enter the coal mine in Meghalaya. Reuters

The operation could not proceed further due to technical issues concerning manpower and machineries, district officials said.

The 15-member Navy team, equipped with specialised diving equipment, arrived at the site in the remote Lumthari village on Saturday.

District officials said that the Odisha Fire and Emergency Services would press their 10 high-powered pumps on Sunday to dewater the flooded mine.

They said a team of experts from the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, have also arrived on Saturday, along with an ace mine-mishap expert from Punjab, Jaswant Singh Gill, to assist in the operation.

A senior district official said pumping of the water from the 370-foot-deep mine was yet to resume as technical experts handling the pumps were preparing for the job.

The NDRF personnel have been engaged in the operation at the mine since 14 December, a day after the disaster took place.

The mine, located on top of a hillock fully covered with trees, had got flooded when water from the nearby Lytein river gushed into it on 13 December, trapping 15 diggers.

The NDRF had contradicted media reports that quoted it as saying the trapped miners were suspected to be dead on the basis of the foul odour the force's divers had smelt when they had gone inside the mine. It said the foul smell could be due to the stagnant water in the mine as pumping had been halted for more than 48 hours.

Rat-hole mining involves digging of narrow tunnels, usually three-four feet high, for workers to enter and extract coal. The horizontal tunnels are often termed "rat holes" as each just about fits one person.

A survivor of the 13 December accident said on Saturday that there was no way the trapped miners would come out alive. Family members of at least seven trapped miners had already given up hope to rescue their kin alive and requested the government to retrieve the bodies for last rites.

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Updated Date: Dec 30, 2018 08:25:16 IST